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DVD Review: Baka And Test

 An anime series with a video game-like plot layout!

Literally translated as ‘Idiots and Tests’, ‘Baka and Test’ is based on the Japanese light novel series by Kenji Inoue. Having been adapted into both Manga and Anime, ‘Baka and Test’ has also announced a Playstation game release titled Baka And Test to Shōkanjū Portable For the PSP, which is unsurprising given its video-game like set up and plot devices. It’s use of trivia and mental challenges make for a brilliant gaming platform and will no doubt be as entertaining and colourful as the series itself. 

The 13-episode television series focuses on the life of a schoolboy named Akihisa Yoshii, a probationary student in an elite school with a unique way of training its children. The school separates it’s students into classes, graded A-F, dependent on their test scores at the beginning of the school year. The higher class, the higher the benefits, including: better school equipment, higher quality food and complimentary coffee, plush chairs and desks. Your test results directly affect how strong your digital ‘Shōkanjū’ or avatar is. This avatar is a small, chibi version of the student which can battle with other students in class wars which can be fought to win materials for their classrooms. Their school supplies and the quality of their learning materials are therefore a result of the strength of each class’s intellect and their test results.

(Courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

The series begins with the students taking their entrance test, during which time a female student, Mizuki Himeji is taken ill and therefore fails her exam, placing her in the poorly supplied and delinquent filled Class F. Akihasa, sickened by the low quality of the classroom’s supplies, decides to rouse the class into starting a war against the other ranks in order to better their own situation. With Mizuki actually ranking second in the school at overall intelligence, but having been pigeon-holed due to her health, they have a formidable team and the series follows Class F’s attempts to gain a higher class for learning and their developing relationships.

From the opening credits for Baka and Test it is clear we are dealing with a fast paced, colourful series with a host of unique characters. Whilst it is easy to write the series off as a loud, brash school based series with plenty of fan-service, skimpy outfits and pin-up style close-ups, this does not do justice to the wonderfully comedic writing and post modern narration. The narrator is dry with a brilliantly sarcastic script which instantly gives you the impression that this is not a simple excuse to watch girls in school uniforms and cute chibis. There are many ironic and satiric nods to manga, anime and even Western film which appeal to both anime and film fans; for example, Akihisa claiming ‘You shall not pass!’ to another student, or the childish obsession with a cute cartoon fox, a parody of Hello Kitty or other Sanrio characters.

(Courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

The video game-like layout of the plot, with it’s use of chibi avatars and knowledge and trivia being directly linked to the chibi’s strength, is both a fun style trait and a good way to make learning seem fun and competitive. This also allows for a great variation of animation styles to be shown off through anime,  CG art, chibi art and highly detailed pin-up style stills, making it a great showcase of modern Japanese animation. Characters also occasionally change from the cuter, wide-eyed personas, to grittier adult anime characters when attempting to be melodramatically serious.

The characters are highly sexualized, from the small, tight outfits of the female students or at least one episode taking place in a pool; to the sexually ambiguous Hideyoshi. This can alienate the audience; however, this is mostly down to the childish look of the characters and the fact that they are high school students. One thing Western audiences tend to forget is how often we sexualize teenagers in series such as Beverly Hills 90210 or One Tree Hill, both showing teenagers as played by adults. Unlike many other anime, Baka And Test manages to deal with this sexualisation in a comedic way which takes away the often alienating and unnerving aspects of high-school-based fan-serviced anime. They do this by being very aware of the way they are exploiting the fan-service style and often accompanying it with sarcasm or over-the-top comedic dialogue.

(Courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

The treatment of Yaoi and Yuri characters is handled well, with both Akihisa and Minami being the objects of same sex desire. While Minami’s love-struck ‘stalker’ is seen as an annoying pest, as opposed to playing to the stereotype of lesbian experimentation as highly sexual and attractive; Akihisa’s crush is seen as sweet and silently doting, thus showing two sides to early teenage desire and experimentation. The character of Hideyoshi is also an interesting representative for transgender or unclassified gender through his constant reminding of his peers that he is in fact a boy despite his feminine traits and the attraction of his seemingly straight class mates towards him despite this fact. At no point are the transgender, lesbian or gay characters treated in an abhorrent manner. While Minami’s crush may be annoying, she is no more annoying than a male crush. At all times the treatment of the individual students sexuality is unquestioned, with a touch of comedy showing a wide range of sexually diverse characters.

The English-dubbing is well voiced with brilliant monotone from the narrator as well as over-the-top comedic voice acting from the characters. The timing is also superb, allowing for well honed jokes and translated sarcasm. The music is also highly energetic and makes no mistake about the genre with its fast pacing, fun beat; it’s obvious that we are watching a tongue in cheek, action comedy.

(Courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

The most exciting thing about this series, however, would be its potential as a multi-format brand. The treatment of education as an exciting, fun and interesting RPG style game with rewards for knowledge is a brilliant concept for a game and one which melds the education of games such as Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training, with the collecting and cute aspect of Pokemon. Whilst also being a highly entertaining and fun series, Baka And Test mostly serves to get us very excited for its future potential.

Label: Manga Entertainment

Release date: 28tht May 2012

Certificate: 12

Running time: 325 mins

Genre: Anime, Comedy, Action, Romance

Director: Shin Oonuma

Author Profile:

Anastasia Catris is a freelance illustrator, writer and actress based in South Wales. After graduating in English Literature from Royal Holloway, University of London she studied for a year in comic book art and design in The Kubert School where she nurtured her love of Japanese animation and cartooning as well as its cinema, video games and culture. You can keep up to date with Anastasia’s activity via her website www.anastasiacatris.wordpress.com or her Facebook page www.facebook.com/acatris. You may also follow her on Twitter at @acatris.

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  1. June 10, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    The changing in animation style due to the character’s emotions in those moments reminds me a bit of how Dragon Half utilized that playful style….really adds so much more humor and substance to the stories. This sounds like a really fun anime!!!

    Found it here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Baka-Test-Summon-Beasts-Blu-ray/dp/B004TP55T8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339371387&sr=8-1

    Just ordered the season 1 =D..thank you for the wonderful review!

    Like

    • June 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      Thanks for your comment, MorningBerryz – I shall pass on your kind words to the reviewer, Ana. Hope you enjoy Season 1

      Like

      • June 11, 2012 at 10:23 pm

        Should arrive in a few days..can’t wait! Thank you again for the wonderful and insightful review♥!

        Like

  2. June 12, 2012 at 9:43 am

    MorningBerryz :

    Should arrive in a few days..can’t wait! Thank you again for the wonderful and insightful review♥!

    Please let us know what you think of the series once you’ve watched it, Morning Berryz. Thanks for sharing the link above – here’s a link for those in the UK who wish to purchase the collection:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Baka-And-Test-Complete-Collection/dp/B00791E8KG/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1339494174&sr=1-1

    Like

  1. June 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm
  2. June 16, 2012 at 10:43 am
  3. June 26, 2012 at 10:27 pm
  4. July 30, 2012 at 11:52 am
  5. September 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm

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